Q: I tend to make decisions quickly — too quickly, and then regret them. I think it’s causing some problems in my career, and wonder what I can do to address it.
A: Develop strategies to catch yourself so that you can stop and think.
The inner game
If impulsive behavior is typical, strategies for slowing down will be helpful. However, it may be more difficult for you and require more attention. To start, take some time to get centered. Find a place where you can sit quietly, or go for a walk so that movement can help you get grounded. Focus on your breathing, paying little attention to the thoughts that will be going through your mind.
Remember how you feel when there is a decision to be made. Perhaps you’ll even experience it again as you reflect. Do you get an adrenaline rush? What emotion is behind it? It might be fun to be decisive or you may be acting out of anxiety. Now visualize that rush settling so that you can move into a more intentional decision mode.
If you’ve noticed that fear is behind your quick action, consider what you’re worried about. Then consider the worst thing that could happen … how much does it matter if someone is impatient? And guess what? Changing your decision style won’t necessarily add much time, and could prevent a lot of cleanup later.
Finally, develop a role model. It could be a real person, say, a colleague with an effective style, a movie or book character, or even an “ideal you.” Use this to imagine how you’ll handle future decisions.
The outer game
Addressing this habit will have three steps: creating a plan, following the plan, and reviewing your progress. Note: I’m intentionally being very step-oriented to help you slow down.
The plan is simple: Understand the decision you need to make, breathe through the urge to answer off the cuff (or before you even fully understand the decision), know the outcome you want to achieve, and weigh the options to get there. Then decide. Learn to say “I will get back to you on that very soon.” And be prompt in your follow-up. Be sure to ask questions to get all of the information needed. There is no weakness in not knowing everything, but hasty assumptions will surely burn you.
To follow the plan, notice which parts are hardest. You may need to learn how to deliberately weigh options. If so, take the time to write down a list of pros and cons. It makes it much harder to gloss over the down sides of a decision, and can help a less likely solution get a proper hearing.
Then actually do it. The next time you’re faced with a decision, use this approach. It will feel awkward, but don’t let that deter you. If you forget, identify where the process broke down and try again the next time.
Track your progress, noting whether the quality of your decisions is improving. Be sure to celebrate your successes in using this new approach.
The last word
Using a more intentional approach will help you make decisions you can stand behind.